Toasting began as a method of prolonging the life of bread. It was initially toasted over open fires with tools to hold it in place until it was properly browned. Toasting was a very common activity in Roman times; “tostum” is the Latin word for scorching or burning. As the Romans travelled throughout Europe vanquishing their foes in early times, it’s said that they took their toasted bread right along with them. The British developed a fondness for the Romans’ toast and introduced it in the Americas when they crossed the ocean.
The First Electric Toasters.
The first electric toaster was invented in 1893 by Alan MacMasters in Scotland. He called the device the “Eclipse Toaster,” and it was manufactured and marketed by the Crompton Company.
This early toaster was reinvented in 1909 in the U.S. when Frank Shailor patented his idea for the “D-12” toaster. General Electric ran with the idea and introduced it for use in the home. Unfortunately, it only toasted one side of the bread at a time and it required that someone stand by to manually turn it off when the toast looked done.
Westinghouse followed with its own version of a toaster in 1914, and the Copeman Electric Stove Company added an “automatic bread turner” to its toaster in 1915. Charles Strite invented the modern timed pop-up toaster in 1919. Today, the toaster is the most common household appliance although it’s only been in existence in the U.S. a little over 100 years.
An unusual online museum is dedicated to the toaster, with lots of photos and historical information.